VIENNA – The Palestinians plan to pursue a course of operating diplomatically “as a state” despite the absence of a peace deal with Israel, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour told a world body forum in a two-day session that ended Friday.
Lamenting a lengthy stalemate in negotiations and talk of the possible abandonment of a longtime recognized goal of achieving a two-state solution, Mansour said: “We are joining international conventions and treaties every day as a state.”
Referencing Interpol’s recent acceptance of Palestinian membership despite protests by Israel and Washington, Mansour said that “the trend [of joining international organizations] is moving forward.”
“We are acting as a state, we are accepted as a state and we will continue on this path,” Mansour told the International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East.
The conference is an annual event held since the Oslo Accords were achieved in 1993 as a way of propelling stalemated diplomacy forward.
Formal peace talks last broke off in 2014.
The UN General Assembly gave Palestinians non-member observer status in 2012, but left the achievement of actual statehood up to negotiations with Israel. Jerusalem rejected that move as a unilateral step aimed at sidestepping peace talks.
Some journalists, diplomats and politicians at the conference wondered aloud whether the two-state solution was still relevant, referencing US President Donald Trump’s failure to embrace the idea as a goal.
Mansour rejected a suggestion by peace activist Avraham Burg, a former Knesset speaker and Jewish Agency head, that the idea of independent Palestinian statehood alongside Israel “may no longer be on the shelf.”
“Is the concept of a nation state still applicable?” Burg asked, pointing to the latest referendums for autonomy by Catalonia and the Kurds as examples of a more modern “withdrawal from the state back to the tribe” type model. Burg thought it was time for a new paradigm to emerge that would incorporate both the Israelis and Palestinians, in what appeared to be a broad hint at a single-state solution.
Mansour rejected Burg’s idea as “definitely not the thinking of the Palestinian people” and called it “bizarre and ridiculous” to suggest the Kurds deserved their independence but not the Palestinians.
Referencing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s talks with Trump at the UN in New York last month, Mansour said he still saw “a global consensus for the two-state solution.”
“The best formula is separation. Staying together in segregation and apartheid will not work,” Mansour said, clarifying his rejection of a single-state solution to the conflict.
“We want to live in our national homeland, and we have national rights,” he said. “What is more realistic is two states.”
Mansour reiterated Palestinian objections to settlement building in the West Bank – land where Palestinians seek to build their state.
“We need to remove the main obstacle in the path [to peace], which is settlement activity,” he said, adding that he believes diplomacy led by the Trump administration was “at a critical stage” and hopes something positive results.
Mansour added that the Trump administration thought “this issue might be easy to resolve.”
“The next few months are important to look at and we may have some surprises,” he said.